Sept 3, 2002
By TOM COYNE
AP Sports Writer
SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) – Carlyle Holiday looked like a natural running Notre Dame’s new West Coast offense.
The junior quarterback, known more for his running ability than his passing, found the open receivers, threw for a career-best 226 yards and had a good time in a 22-0 season-opening win over Maryland on Saturday.
“I just tried to stay within the offense and make good plays,” he said. “There were some moments that I felt good about what I was doing.”
There were a lot of times last season when he couldn’t say that because he was so bruised and battered from running the ball. He carried the ball only eight times against Maryland, fewer than in any of his nine starts last season.
Maryland’s biggest concern heading into its game against No. 23 Notre Dame, was whether it could contain the fleet-footed Holiday.
“We knew he was a great athlete,” Maryland strong safety Dennard Wilson said Tuesday. “We knew we had to try to contain Holiday because he can hurt you with his feet more so than his arm. The question was, could he really throw the ball?”
The Terrapins quickly discovered the answer. He passed for 150 yards in the first half, four more than his previous high in a loss to Tennessee last season.
Irish coach Tyrone Willingham said he was most pleased that Holiday wasn’t satisfied with his performance.
“I think I heard some of his comments that he was excited about his performance, but yet at the same time believes he has a lot of improvement that he can show,” Willingham said. “Carlyle has worked a great deal, very hard, very diligently to make himself a good quarterback.”
The change in the new Irish offense was evident from the game’s start. The Irish, who rarely threw on first down last year, opened with a pass as Holiday connected with Omar Jenkins, the first of eight receivers he hit. The Irish had four games last season in which they didn’t complete eight passes.
About the only mental mistake Holiday made was to try to throw the ball away wildly while being tackled midway through the fourth quarter.
The Irish had some other problems, though. They were held to 130 yards rushing on 45 carries, the offense failed to score a touchdown, settling instead for five field goals, and made some mental mistakes, such as getting called for two false starts in a row on their second possession.
“I think the thing we’ve got to do in our offense, not just running the football, is eliminate a lot of the unforced errors,” Willingham said. “We’ve got to sharpen up a great deal.”
Holiday hopes he has answered his doubters.
“Some people questioned me, so that motivated me,” he said. “I knew I could pass the ball.”